Two Lockheed Martin-built F-35 fighter jets carried out the program’s first ever live-fire launches of an air-to-air missile and a laser-guided bomb this week during separate test exercises for the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps in California.
An F-35A conventional take-off and landing variant fighter fired an AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missile at a drone target on Wednesday and an F-35B short take-off and vertical landing variant jet deployed a laser-guided Paveway II bomb on a test tank from 25,000 feet above ground on Tuesday.
According to the Air Force, Capt. Logan Lamping launched the AIM-120 radar-seeking missile from the F-35A’s internal weapons bay against the drone after the jet’s mission systems sensors found the target and sent information to the missile.
“This successful missile launch marks the first live-fire weapons test and is an initial demonstration of the air-to-air combat capability the F-35 will bring to the U.S. Military and our international partners” said Charlie Wagner, weapons team lead for the F-35 Joint Program Office.
The missile received a self-destruct signal before striking target as the Air Force seeks to save the drone for future tests, the Air Force said.
Marine Corps Maj. Richard Rusnok served as the test pilot for the F-35B’s exercise and deployed a Paveway bomb that did not contain explosives, the F-35 program office said.
That bomb weighed 500 pounds and contained a nose-mounted laser seeker with flight guidance fins.